The legitimacy of Speaker Beckett

Today, MPs vote (in a secret ballot for the first time, under new procedures) to elect a new Speaker for the House of Commons.

Of course, since the expenses scandal that brought down Michael Martin and effectively ended the political careers of several of them, MPs are taking excruciating care over this new election. There is complete transparency, there are no hidden agendas, and everything is happening in a new-broom, bipartisan spirit.

Not a bit of it.

Avaragado’s first rule of politics:

Wherever three or more people are gathered together, there shall be politics

This is natural, since we’re social animals. Gossip, bitching and backstabbing have been going on since we had the ability to communicate.

Avaragado’s second rule of politics:

Wherever three or more politicians are gathered together, there shall be corruption

The early favourite was Conservative John Bercow, seen as a reformist – ie, what the public seems to want, and what the Commons needs. But he also has some wacky ideas like taking Parliament round the country, which reminds me of that recurring sketch from The Day Today of the Bureau de Change on the back of a lorry.

But now the smart money’s on Margaret Beckett. Why? Because it seems the government whips are “encouraging” Labour MPs to back her. She’s the “Stop Bercow” candidate. So much for the new broom, for transparency, for reform.

Would she be a good Speaker? Possibly. But that won’t be why she’ll be elected, if she gets the job.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that someone who until only last month was Housing Minister (and who occasionally sat in Cabinet) – and, let’s not forget, who was Tony Blair’s last Foreign Secretary, and who stood in as Labour leader after John Smith’s death – is not going to be seen as entirely independent.

One of the reasons many MPs didn’t like Michael Martin was the perception that he favoured Labour. How is that going to be fixed by the Labour whips installing a recently ex-minister as his replacement? There is always going to be a whiff of distrust.

The Westminster bubble indeed. Entirely clueless, the lot of them.

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